Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Cross-Dome Tensions on the Rise

Douglas Graham/Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ruffled his House colleagues when he couldn’t guarantee passage of a measure extending unemployment benefits and Medicare payments to doctors.

“Senate Republicans were not going to let us pass it today, next week or maybe ever,” the second senior aide said. “That’s what House Democrats failed to understand.”

Indeed, House Democratic moderates were already in full revolt by Wednesday, warning Hoyer that they would not vote for the package. On Thursday, they said they wouldn’t vote for the revised package either, forcing even deeper cuts to the package.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a co-chairwoman of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who led the push-back against the larger package, said there was a larger concern bubbling up from Members who were hearing growing concerns about the deficit back home.

“Our constituents aren’t buying that we can’t pay for things,” the South Dakota Democrat said.

Freshman Rep. Gerry Connolly came out early against the larger package and said the cuts to the bill should tell leadership it is time to slow down.

“Look what just happened to this bill,” the Virginia Democrat said. “They had to strip it back and strip it back and strip it back, and then bifurcate the votes, and still they are getting a bare majority.”

Connolly said the bulk of the concern is with the size deficit, but Members also are very frustrated with the Senate.

“When the word spread last night they had already adjourned, people were astounded, stunned,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would not have had Members looking for assurances from the Senate if she had not pressed her Members to take difficult votes on bills that would later die in the Senate, such as last year’s climate change measure.

“What the House wants more than anything right now is cover from the Senate,” the senior Senate Democratic aide said. “This has as much to do with climate change and health care as it does with tax extenders.”

Another Senate Democratic aide posited that the tensions boiled over last week because of the difficult political terrain Members in both parties are facing.

“Every incumbent in both parties is running scared,” the aide said.

Reid said Friday that he does not believe either chamber is to blame, noting that he understands House frustrations over the Senate’s inability to pass much of the legislation that has been sent over. Reid also alluded to the fact that both chambers had trouble securing enough votes for passage.

“This is not an easy piece of legislation,” Reid told reporters. “There’s no fault to cast around here. This is just very, very hard to do.”

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